BetRivers Sportsbook May Soon Become a Household Name

There is an unsung brand in the PA sports betting market that is lying in wait to become one of the top two or three Sportsbooks in the state entering football season, which will kick off with Week 1 of college football.

I am talking about BetRivers Sportsbook owned by Rush Street Interactive, and a sister site of SugarHouse Sportsbook.

BetRivers will be the dominant brand name for the company by late 2019, as they plan to fold the SugarHouse brand into the Rivers brand, better known by folks in the western half of the state thanks to the physical location of Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh.

The BetRivers brand will receive the marketing and promotional might of Rush Street presumably once Rivers Philadelphia undergoes it's rebranding.

Their Sportsbook app is virtually identical to SugarHouse, save for the difference in branding, color scheme, and some local flavor on Pittsburgh related promotions. But it features the same odds, the same backend, the same general interface, and the same company backing and promotional might, which is equally strong on both the eastern and western halves of the state.

Though it might be tough to compete with the likes of DrafKings Sportsbook, and FanDuel Sportsbook, which are juggernauts in the sports betting space, Rivers offers a serviceable Sportsbook and a plethora of casino games, slots and table games.

This technology has been tested and bug-proofed thanks to existing in New Jersey for two years prior to this, with the popular SugarHouse Casino app in New Jersey. It's a brand that nobody's really talking about, and indeed it did finish behind SugarHouse when PA betting revenue numbers came out for June, but once the promotional might of the company and customer list of SugarHouse shifts over to the Rivers brand, you can expect a massive influx to a BetRivers Sportsbook. They're one to watch in the Pennsylvania betting market.

DraftKings Sportsbook Set To Launch Soon in West Virginia

DraftKings Sportsbook will launch for sports betting in West Virginia this week, according to CrossingBroad.com.

It marks the second state DraftKings will bring its mobile sports betting app to, this in addition to New Jersey.

While they have no plans to enter PA online sports betting, DraftKings Sportsbook will be the first and only betting app available in West Virginia, at least for the time being.

Earlier this year, two casinos and one mobile app, Bet Lucky, launched in the state, but then were suspended and eventually shuttered due to problems with its data provider and the rights they had for the information they were providing. This means DraftKings now has a leg up on the competition, along with the brand recognition to go with it.

The DraftKings Sportsbook app will be the same app as is available in New Jersey for West Virginia.

FOX Bet Is a Rising Star in Legal Sports Betting

Let's talk a little bit about why FOX Bet, previously known as BetStars, will be such a big deal for legal sports betting. BetStars is owned by The Stars Group, a Canadian company that is popular in Europe and known here in the U.S. for its popular Poker Stars brand. They launched a sports betting app in New Jersey last September, which struggled to gain a foothold in the market. Marketing efforts were misunderstanding of the U.S. market, and there were initial issues with deposits and payments, and even with some bets being accepted.

However, BetStars is a popular brand with what I feel is a simplistic but easy-to-use user interface. Partnering with FOX will instantly propel them to be one of the top sports betting brands. A recent article by Bloomberg cited a FOX-supplied stat that said betters were twice as likely to bet with the FOX Bet app compared to DraftKings or FanDuel. Now, this might strictly be brand recognition, but the point remains that having the backing of FOX, who's going to promote FOX Bet during NFL, college basketball, and all of the other sports rights broadcasts it has including Major League Baseball and the World Series, will instantly give it a fighter's chance in New Jersey, and now in Pennsylvania where BetStars has a partnership with Mount Airy Casino and Resort.

So we feel FOX Bet will wind up being one of the leaders in online sports betting in the U.S., at least until NBC or ESPN Disney decide to partner with the Sportsbook and launch their branded apps. This may also allow for live-streaming within the app that could allow betting in real-time. FanDuel and Sportsbook have dipped their toes into this with live-streaming tennis that you can bet on, but sports rights are much harder and more expensive to come by in the U.S. for the major four sports, and FOX has quite a few of them. FOX Bet is one to look out for.

Parx Sportsbook May Be First in PA

I want to talk a little about why Parx Sportsbook will be one of the leading sportsbooks in Pennsylvania when online sports betting launches in PA.

The first reason is because they are well known local brand outside of the Philadelphia area. This immediately puts them in name recognition with SugarHouse Sportsbook and even maybe FanDuel Sportsbook, which should also launch in PA sometime in 2019.

The other reason is because Parx, unlike some other casinos perhaps in New Jersey, seems to understand that it should use a tech-focused app. This is clearly the growth area for online betting. Any casino that launches a betting app that looks more like a casino than something that belongs on iOS or Android will be disappointed to see its results.

Parx has already released their bet slip builder in Pennsylvania, so we have a taste of what their app will look like.

Regardless, Parx will come out of the gate as one of the first sports betting apps in Pennsylvania, and therefore it should be able to get a leg up in one of the biggest markets. They will likely also offer betting promo codes, which should be able to grab new users to get them to sign up before other apps launch in the market.

Keep in mind, Philadelphia, because it is essentially on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, is the test market for sports betting. And because Parx is maybe one of the first sites to launch in Philly, they will get out of the gate ahead of most everybody else.

So we look forward to seeing what Parx has to offer.

Why Sports Betting in PA Will Be Different

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, but it seems everyone is overlooking why PA online sports betting will be different than betting in New Jersey.

Most obviously, the infrastructure in PA is much different than it is in New Jersey, where gambling and even online gambling was legal long before the Supreme Court overturned a 1992 ruling effectively making betting legal in New Jersey, is mostly non-existent. Where New Jersey had a process in place for vetting sports betting apps, Pennsylvania has none. A self-stated goal of launching online betting by late 2018 has long passed, and now Wire Act uncertainty has pushed the target even further— anywhere from April to July, depending on comments from regulators and operators alike.

The delay is just one problem.

The second is that only 12, and soon 13, operators will be able to launch apps with one skin. That means the competition will be less in PA than it is in New Jersey, meaning more questionable casino app experiences and less partnerships with mobile-first companies like BetStars and others.

DraftKings, the leader in New Jersey, doesn’t even have a partner in Pennsylvania yet, and FanDuel will have to have its app branded by little known Valley Forge Casino and Resort, which doesn’t have nearly the recognition or name reputation that nearby Parx and SugarHouse has.

Throw in the onerous tax rates and you have the recipe for poor apps to offer poor odds and poor promotions. All of this in a state that is ripe to be a sports betting leader, with two major cities with sports fans.

The revenue numbers will still be off the charts, but consumers won’t have the same easy of use or quality breadth of apps at their disposal. At least not right away.

New Jersey Sports Betting Updates

It’s now several months into NJ online sports betting and DraftKings Sportsbook continues to utterly dominate the market.

In November, they accounted for almost 33% of the market, generating almost $7 million in revenue. New Jersey overall generated $21 million in revenue. The total handle was $330 million. 72% of that came from online betting. It looks like I was write in this Medium piece I wrote about why online and live sports betting would dominate the market.

FanDuel was right with them, while no one else really came close— though SugarHouse and William Hill, operating under the MGM license, did generate notable revenue. SugarHouse continues to be the sleeper in the market.

Look for PointsBet to enter the market in late 2018 or early 2019.